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Session 188: Designing Women: The Use of Fashion to Construct International Modernity, National Tradition, and Gender in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Within the South Asian Diaspora

Organizer and Chair: Ann Marie Leshkowich, Harvard University
Discussant: Penelope Van Esterik, York University

Amidst rapid cultural and economic globalization, South and Southeast Asian women are using fashion to construct and challenge visions of modernity, nationalism, internationalism, and gender. This panel explores how specific Indonesian, Vietnamese, and diasporic South Asian women consciously draw on international styles to craft clothing items as markers of various identities and as commodities whose development, circulation, and use can offer social and economic advantage.
Sandra Niessen's paper examines how female Batak weavers in North Sumatra adapt pattern innovations in an attempt to reconcile their history with their future. Carla Jones analyzes how middle class women enrolled in manners and wardrobe classes in Yogyakarta transform international styles for proper "Indonesian women." Ann Marie Leshkowich's paper examines how female merchants draw on diasporic kin to reinterpret Vietnam's traditional costume as an amalgam of national heritage and international style. Parminder Bhachu explores how British South Asian female entrepreneurs use their multi-national identities and networks to develop a hybrid style with "couture" appeal. Discussant Penny van Esterik brings to the panel an extensive background of scholarship in gender, development, and material culture in Southeast Asia.
These papers suggest two ways in which fashion has become transnational: first, through the concrete circulation of items, ideas, and individuals within diaspora; second, through incorporating these styles into local products which tangibly represent an envisioned relationship to a global community. By focusing on the agency and intentions of individual designers, sellers, and consumers, the panel hopes to spark inter-area discussion of the processes shaping fashion's meanings and uses.

Big Families in a Small World: How Female Entrepreneurs Use International Kin Networks to Shape Vietnam's National Costume
Ann Marie Leshkowich, Harvard University
While economic and cultural globalization can threaten local producers and traditions, this paper suggests that it can also create opportunities for female entrepreneurs. Specifically, I examine how female designers and sellers of áo dài in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam use knowledge acquired through diasporic kin networks to craft and promote a garment which symbolizes both national tradition and international modernity.
In September 1995, the Miss International Pageant in Tokyo awarded Miss Vietnam "Best National Costume" for her blue and white brocade áo dài-a long, close-fitting tunic worn over loose pants. For many in Vietnam, this award both affirmed the value of Vietnam's traditions and signified its incorporation into the modern global community. International recognition also boosted the áo dài's domestic appeal. Within days, stalls and shops throughout Ho Chi Minh City had posted pictures of the winner with signs promising áo dài "just like Miss Vietnam's."
This paper argues that the Miss Vietnam advertisements are part of Vietnamese designers' and sellers' ongoing efforts to market the áo dài as an amalgam of local and global influences. For advice about international fashion trends, these entrepreneurs-most of them women-regularly turn to their relatives overseas. They then use this information to develop new áo dài styles. In this way, Vietnamese women's traditional role as maintainers of kin relations now gives many of them access to global fashion influences. Incorporating these touches into their designs helps female entrepreneurs make Vietnam's "national costume" attractive to today's cosmopolitan consumers.

<== предыдущая лекция | следующая лекция ==>
Session 153: Initiative and Response: Vietnamese Actors in the Introduction of European Medical and Technical Systems to Vietnam | Session 207: Reform and Resistance in State/Society Relations in South East Asia

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